You may remember staggering around during those interminable nights as a brand new mom. Sleep deprivation, an equally clueless baby-daddy and an inconsolable infant made it easy to forget everything you knew about the benefits of breastfeeding and even easier to reach for that bottle of formula instead. Times have changed since I had my first baby at Howard County General Hospital and although breastfeeding was considered a good option back then, the encouragement and resources to successfully introduce new moms and babies to breastfeeding were limited. Today, as we jump-start a culture shift that favors breastfeeding, all of that is about to change.
Here in Maryland, we have one of the lowest breastfeeding rates and one of the highest rates of supplementation in the nation. According to the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) Breastfeeding Report Card, nearly 31 percent of infants in Maryland receive formula before they are two days old. (The national average is 24.5 percent) The CDC strongly supports breastfeeding as one of the most highly effective preventative measures a mom can take to protect the health of her child. According to the CDC, “In the United States, although most mothers hope to breastfeed, and 75 percent of babies start out being breastfed, only 15 percent are exclusively breastfed six months later.” In response to these and other statistics, the National Initiative for Children’s Healthcare Quality (NICHQ) has launched a “Best Fed Beginnings” program. The 22-month intensive program helps hospitals achieve a “Baby-Friendly” designation. The designation is awarded to hospitals that have successfully implemented the American Academy of Pediatrics-endorsed Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding. In the United States, there aren’t very many hospitals with this designation. Of the approximately 20,000 hospitals worldwide that have attained the Baby-Friendly designation, only 143 are in the U.S.
Howard County General Hospital (HCGH), designated as one of 90 hospitals nationwide to participate in the “Best Fed Beginnings” program, has been a supportive voice for breastfeeding. Dr. Tuvia Blechman, Chairman of Pediatrics and Medical Director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at HCGH, explained, “Howard County General is unique in that we see more than 90 percent of new mothers breastfeeding while in the hospital following delivery. The strong support services and breastfeeding programs we have in place make it possible for these new mothers to continue successfully breastfeeding long after they leave us, which is very beneficial for both baby and mother.” The support services include a team of physicians, lactation consultants and maternal nurses with special training in lactation. This team works together to support a new mother’s choice to breastfeed and encourages new mothers to get answers to questions about breastfeeding during their hospital stay.
While the hospital works to improve breastfeeding statistics, it will always do so with the understanding that breastfeeding may not be the best alternative for every mom or every baby. But for the new moms who have the choice, I’m glad HCGH will be there to support and encourage you as you undertake one of the hardest but most rewarding aspects of motherhood.
View the video below to hear about breastfeeding from the perspective of a young mother who recently delivered at Howard County General Hospital: